Founder and builder of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and an influential early developer of Miami Beach, auto parts tycoon turned powerhouse real estate developer Carl G. Fisher attempted the most ambitious property development plan in the history of the Hamptons. In 1925, he bought almost the entire peninsula of Montauk, 10,000 acres in all, for $2.5 million. That’s about $315 million in today’s dollars. His dream was to turn Montauk into the Miami Beach of the north; he wanted the Gatsby crowd to think, “Miami Beach in the winter, Montauk in the summer.”
Much of Fisher’s grandiose efforts remain intact today. He built the 250-room Manor Hotel, which opened in 1927. It’s now condos. He also built a polo field, the Montauk Yacht Club (now a hotel), the Montauk Tennis Auditorium (now the community center), and the Montauk Bathing Casino, now co-ops, with its enormous oceanside pools. When built, a seven-story office building in the hamlet’s downtown plaza was the tallest building on Long Island. Now, it’s — you guessed it! — condos. The Montauk Community Church Fisher built still stands, and for the maids, porters, and croupiers who worked in his establishments, he built a section of town still known as Shepherds Neck, complete with grazing sheep and petite yet picturesque houses. The 1929 stock market crash basically put an end to Fisher’s career. But even today, you’ll see reminders of his towering ambition just about wherever you go in Montauk.
This pair of Tudor-style cottages, which offer four bedrooms and two baths between them, sit together on a one-third-acre parcel right in the heart of Shepherds Neck. The sellers purchased the property in 2020 for $1.1 million, gave both cottages a thorough overhaul and added the swimming pool. No doubt Fisher would be amazed to find out that the asking price for the fully updated property, $2.15 million, is almost as much as he paid for the entire town. The property is available via Victoria Blanco Freel at Brown Harris Stevens.
The updated grounds include multiple patios and sitting areas outside, as well as the new pool and an outdoor shower. A good-sized shed will accommodate plenty of surfboards, beach chairs, bikes, and fishing poles. Both cottages feel airy and light, with fresh white paint, brand-new kitchens and baths, and multiple sleeping areas. The main house boasts a gas fireplace for cool summer evenings.
Many older houses in Montauk, even small ones, have guest cottages. When built, the idea was that the back cottage could be rented out in the summer months for extra income, or the family could retreat to the guest house and rent the main house. Small as this guest cottage is, it could easily fetch $3000 a month on a year-round lease and even more probably as a Memorial Day to Labor Day vacation rental. Or, the owner could just keep the cottage open for guests or extended family.
Whatever, the new owners plans may be, Fisher’s eyes would certainly pop at the prices Montauk can fetch these days, not to mention the stratospheric prices in Miami Beach.